What’s in a Name?

Shakespeare nailed it:  “That which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Yet perhaps Shakespeare failed to consider the consequences of some name choices.

Names are words, words to which we attach meaning from some (often shifting) external context.

And so it was when my siblings and cousins Barbara and Jim were born into a family named Ware.

Yes, we grew up with all of those jokes that seem to follow the name Ware:  Do you have anyone in the family named Stone (Ware)? Corning (Ware)?  You get the picture.  You probably can come up with any number of other humorous quips to hurl our way.

When I was maybe 2 or 3, when we lived in Humble, Texas, outside of Houston, my dad’s working partner, Buddy, had me convinced that my name was other than Cheryl Lynn Ware.  Like another father to me until the day he died, Buddy loved to tell the story of how he had me responding to anyone who asked what my name was:  Cheryl Lynn Stinkpot Ware.  I was working at university when Buddy died, but that story still makes me smile.

Perhaps my most embarrassing moment, though,  came in high school, when my Chemistry teacher had me go to his Physics class to make up an exam (I think those were the classes, anyway).  Mr. Miller — he of the wonderfully wide and welcoming smile– waited until I was through with the test.  There I was, surrounded by august seniors.  Especially the guys.  And then Mr. Miller aimed the smile at me, announcing that if my middle name were Sunder, and then if you said my name really fast altogether, I would be CherylSunderWare.  Everyone laughed, of course. I blushed.  I wanted to sink through the floor.   I still get variations of this one, even now.

And any time we were on a bus for a class trip, the jokes continued:  Cheryl?  Ware?  Where?  Here, I’d pipe up.  Ware/where?  they’d respond.  Cue laughter again.

The last name seemed obvious for its possibilities.  But what other possibilities were there?  Consider our first names — some of us, anyway.

Barbara Ware:  B Ware.  Hmmm.  Got it?

Cheryl Ware:  C Ware.  I don’t need to explain any more.

But my poor brother Philip had the worst time:  P Ware.  Yes, Pee Ware.  Really embarrassing to him when he was a shy little boy.  I was most often the guilty party in taunting him with this, of course.

My own name, C Ware, has continued to be a source of humor over the years.  It’s handy, even a shorthand of sorts for a way of viewing things.  Hence the name of this new blog:  C Ware in the World.  Not a single meaning, but ambiguity results with that combination, and as a literary sort, I like the ambiguity.  It opens up rather than heading in one direction.

Names are so strange.  We attach meanings to them.  Even at Dad’s funeral (actually, afterwards at the farm), my Aunt Jean was recounting to a friend how I got my name.  When Mother was pregnant, she had a baby shower — and a naming shower.  Everyone had to contribute a name.  My mother’s first choice (Cheryl Ann, I think) was something she shared with a co-worker who was also pregnant.  That woman gave birth first.  And guess what her girl was named?  Yep.  My mother was not happy.  Her “friend” had “stolen her name.”

So Cheryl Lynn I became:  Lynn from the name of one of my dad’s first cousins.

Of course, there’s another twist to my name.  Since Dad belonged to the Church of Christ and Mother was Roman Catholic, when it came time to have me baptized, the Holy Roman Church wouldn’t recognize my name as acceptable.  There were no Saint Cheryls, no Saint Lynns.  Hence I was baptized Cheryl Lynn Maria.  That satisfied the requirements for a saint’s name somewhere in a child’s name.  When it came time for Confirmation, I had to choose yet another name.  I chose Theresa.  So as far as the Church is concerned, I am not Cheryl Lynn Ware.  I am Cheryl Lynn Maria Theresa Ware.  Or if you’d believe the 3-year-old me, Cheryl Lynn Stinkpot Maria Theresa Ware.

My brother and sister had acceptable names:  Philip Franklin Ware (St. Philip, of course); Kay Darlene Ware (Kay from St. Katherine). They didn’t have to have names trailing.  And since neither of them chose to be confirmed, they didn’t have to pick another name.  OH well.

Over the years, I simply learned to play the jokes too.  Why fight it?  After all, words are only weapons if you let them be.

Indeed, when I came to adopt Greece as a second home, I wondered whether in fact names had destined me for a Mediterranean self.

First, my own religious names, especially Maria — a very common name in Greece (and Italy and Spain).  But if you look at my parents’ names, and even my maternal grandmother’s name, other ties emerge.

My mother’s name:  Irene. In Greece, Irini is a common name, derived from the word for peace, Eirene.

My father’s name — or at least his middle name, usually simply designated by the initial for reasons soon to be obvious:  Theophilus.  Theos (God) + philos (friend).  Friend of God.

And my maternal grandmother?  Ella.  In Greek, ela : Appropriately, her name is a command form of the verb come, indicating come here!

Cheryl?  Derives from the French, Cherie, and has the meaning of darling. Lynn?  Depending on the source you look in, it derives from Irish, Gaelic, English or even Spanish, with meanings ranging from ruddy complexion to lake or water or pretty.

A mishmash of cultural heritages are thus blended in the name Cheryl Lynn.  Appropriate for someone who is herself a blend of many cultures, including French, Cajun, Irish, Scots, German, and English.

I figure it could have been worse.  If I’d been male, guess what one of the name choices was?  Henry Theophilus, after my dad.

I’m so glad I’m female.  Even Dad only used T rather than his actual name.

So much for names.  But here you are, in my first post for a new blog.  Join me to cwareintheworld I end up.  To cwareintheworld, see Ware in the world.

Whatever.  I’m on my way.  Ela!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Andrew

    But Theophilus is awesome! So regal.

    • I know it NOW, but when I was a kid I thought it would have been horrible. I just imagined all the teasing.

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